Weathering the drought


One of the great challenges of farming is that many of the variables to success in any given season are beyond your direct control — and chief among them is the weather.

For the second year in a row, Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts are officially in autumn drought, or as the Ministry for Primary Industries puts it, a medium›scale adverse event.

This year we are joined by our Southland neighbours although fortunately not North and Central Otago.

The La Nina weather pattern has served up a very settled warm dry easterly/northerly weather pattern and there has been next to no rain from early February to the time of writing.

Of course what makes this year stand out is the constraints on processing capacity because of Covid outbreaks and staffing shortages which have stalled the flow of prime stock off farm.

Fortunately, other regions north of here have had the capacity to take huge quantities of store stock which has been an important relief valve.

From my observations, and understanding from industry representatives, farmers have been very proactive in moving stock as early as possible and doing whatever they can to lighten the load.

Sheep have been kept moving through the system in a reasonably orderly fashion but the pressure is clearly on the limited cattle space as prime beef cattle compete with the seasonal dairy cow kill.

Federated Farmers and the Rural Support Trusts in Otago and Southland have been proactive in calling for drought declaration and setting up support structures.

A number of events have been planned to get farmers socially off farm with informative guest speakers.

The feed co›ordination service has also been activated by Feds to gather accurate information as to what feed is actually available and where.

Experienced farmers will also be available to act as a second pair of eyes for any farmers who would like some assistance with on›farm decision making. Please feel free to contact Feds or Rural Support for further information.

Unfortunately, there are no easy options, especially this close to winter.

It is either reduce demand by moving stock, buy in expensive supplementary feed, put on nitrogen — or probably a combination of all of these.

If there is any solace, we are all in the same boat.

Keep making the best decisions you can, keep talking to your family, mates and advisers you trust.

It is about getting through with the financial damage contained within the current season.

Droughts are insidious but they always end.